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PR: American Law Institute Pulls the Plug on Affirmative Consent

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Contact: Gina Lauterio
Telephone: 301-801-0608

American Law Institute Pulls the Plug on Affirmative Consent

WASHINGTON / May 23, 2016 – By a resounding margin, members of the American Law Institute voted down a controversial “affirmative consent” standard being considered for the group’s proposed Model Penal Code for Sexual Assault. Instead, the ALI membership approved a definition proposed by attorney Margaret Love that states, “’Consent’ means a person’s willingness to engage in a specific act of sexual penetration or sexual contact. Consent may be expressed or it may be inferred from behavior, including words and conduct—both action and inaction—in the context of all the circumstances.” (1)

The historic vote took place at the ALI annual conference on May 17 in Washington, DC. After two hours of at times acrimonious debate, approximately four-fifths of the 500 members present voted to remove the affirmative consent language (2). Leading judges, law professors, and practicing attorneys comprise the membership of ALI, which develops model laws for adoption at the state level.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers had sharply criticized the proposed affirmative consent policy, charging the ALI draft used “the bludgeon of criminal sanctions to impose the new and yet untested concept of ‘affirmative consent’ upon society.” (3)

The affirmative consent standard has been struck down in two state-level decisions, as well.

In August, Judge Carol McCoy ruled the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga’s affirmative consent policy “erroneously shifted the burden of proof” to the defendant. The administrative judge noted that “requiring the accused to affirmatively provide consent… is flawed and untenable if due process is to be afforded to the accused.” (4)

Last month the Massachusetts District Court ruled against the Brandeis University affirmative consent policy, saying “it is absurd to suggest that it makes no difference whatsoever whether the other party is a total stranger or a long-term partner in an apparently happy relationship.” (5)

Decrying the rigidity and intrusiveness of the affirmative consent approach, Newsday columnist Cathy Young asks, “While there’s still time, we should stop and ask just how much government we really want in the bedroom.” (6) More information about affirmative consent can be found on the SAVE website (7).


SAVE is working for evidence-based, constitutionally sound solutions to campus sexual assault: